Student of the Month

Five years ago, the Halverson’s were itching to leave the city life. Out of pure chance, they found land in outside of Spooner and immediately fell in love. Now, Travis, Nikki and Ronin Halverson are fulfilling their family dream – living as self-sufficiently as possible in the rural Northwoods. Their day jobs include Travis being an espresso machine service technician and Nikki overseeing the Spooner Elementary and Middle School garden while also being a stay-at-home mom. Ronin is a typical seven-year-old boy who loves to play in the dirt and discover slimy, tiny creatures.

When Ronin was enrolled in his first year of preschool at age three, the teachers noticed that he was having issues with communication and socialization. He would bite frequently and have meltdowns. He was very particular about food and would obsess over things he was interested in. It was recommended that he see a doctor so the Halverson’s first started with their primary care provider at Essentia Health. From there, it was recommended that he complete an autism screening through Essentia Health.

His team of doctors, after running a series of tests determined that he did not have autism, but something else called a sensory processing disorder (SPD).

Sensory processing refers to the way the nervous system receives messages from the senses and turns them into responses. For those with Sensory Processing Disorder, sensory information goes into the brain but does not get organized into appropriate responses. Those with SPD perceive and/or respond to sensory information differently than most other people. Unlike people who have impaired sight or hearing, those with Sensory Processing Disorder do detect the sensory information; however, the sensory information get’s “mixed up” in their brain and therefore the responses are inappropriate in the context in which they find themselves. 

Treatment for SPD typically includes occupational therapy. From, occupational therapy helps people of all ages and abilities participate in what they want or need to do on a day-to-day basis. Occupational therapy can help children with disabilities participate fully in school and social situations, help people recover from injury to regain skills and provide support for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.  In the case of children with SPD, occupational therapy helps manage the surrounding sensory input and the emotion or behavior that reacts to it.  

Kati’s recommended treatment plan for Ronin is play based with a focus on strengthening his core, improving motor skills and exploring different sensory experiences.

“Kati is excellent. She listens to any concern that I have, and we really work well together. The whole team at Spooner Health makes sure that Ronin is taken care of.” – Nikki Halverson

Kati helps Ronin understand the “Zones of Regulation” for identifying feelings of being happy, sad, frustrated, and angry. Ronin and Kati worked together to develop a “toolbox” to assist with expression of his emotions when faced with tough situations or sensory experiences. Nikki and Travis are thrilled to report that Ronin has gone from biting his classmates and destroying the classroom to winning Student of the Month. His teachers recognized how cool, calm and collected he is when faced with big emotions or other sensory overloads.

At Spooner Health, occupational therapists are passionate about helping patients live their lives to its fullest capacity. If you want to learn more about occupational therapy, visit or talk to your primary care provider.